17 infamous crimes in Sonoma County history

Ramon Salcido, 1989: It's been 29 years since Salcido, a Sonoma Valley winery worker, committed Sonoma County's most heinous killing rampage — slaying seven and almost killing two others. He was convicted for the 1989 murders of seven people, including his wife and two of his daughters, four-year-old Sofía and 22-month-old Teresa. A third daughter, three-year-old Carmina, was left lying in a field beside the bodies of her sisters for 36 hours after being slashed across the throat by her father. In this photo Ramon Salcido is escorted off a private jet by Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies after his arrival April 21, 1989 from Mexico, where he had fled the murder. (Press Democrat file photo / Tim Baker)


Throughout Sonoma County history several crimes have been so unthinkable, they stay with us - a haunting reminder of what man is capable of at his worst.

Like the tale of Dr. Willard Preble Burke, a noted Santa Rosa doctor who ran a Mark West area sanitarium. In 1910, he placed dynamite under the cabin of his mistress, LuEtta Smith, who had recently given birth to their son. The pair survived and Burke continued to “care” for LuEtta, treating her wounds with arsenic.

Or the story of three San Francisco men wanted in connection with a gang rape who were hiding out in Santa Rosa. After a 1920 shootout left Sonoma County Sheriff Jim Petray and two San Francisco lawmen dead, an angry mob broke into the county jail and lynched the trio in the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery.

Closer to modern times, there was the 1970s serial killer who stalked young women in Sonoma County, murdering at least seven, but was never caught.

And who can forget Richard Allen Davis, whose murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas is scarred in our memories.

Click through the gallery above to see some the most heinous crimes in Sonoma County history.